Watch the Single Note Rhythms & Fills online guitar lesson by Robben Ford from Rhythm Revolution
It's been not uncommon, and especially I would say starting around the 80's where this kind of single-note rhythm playing developed. You started to hear it on R&B records a lot. It's something that I brought into my playing more and more over the years. Just playing little single-note riffs, little rhythms. You're performing, once again, a percussive rhythmic role. You're not playing chords but you are adding some kind of harmonic and sonic information to the picture that would otherwise be missing. Very famous throughout James Brown's work, that kind of guitar playing. It became more and more prominent. In the 80's in particular, maybe late 70's, this was being introduced more and more into popular music. Sometimes all you want to hear is just the sound of the guitar. You're not necessarily in need of any harmonic information, but just the sound of it. Just the fact that it's there. I did a recording with The Yellowjackets, a song called "Monmouth College Fight Song", it was on a live recording from the Montreux Jazz Festival called "Casino Lights". On the solo, the piano solo, rather than playing chords it was kind of a two-chord jam, but rather than playing any chords at all I just played octaves. Just the sound of the guitar and the sound of the octaves, which is a nice sound unto itself. You are just adding the color. You don't have to say a lot or play a lot, you can play very little. That's the idea behind the single-note rhythm thing where you're just introducing the sound of the instrument, pushing the rhythm along as well.